Senate duo announces bill protecting 1.56M acres of Arctic refuge

A bipartisan Senate duo introduced legislation on Wednesday that would section off 1.56 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate Democrat calls on Facebook to preserve documents related to whistleblower testimony Biden says he has directed DOJ to focus on violence from unruly airline passengers Looking to the past to secure America's clean energy future MORE (D-Wash.) and Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.) bill would protect the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain, which is the last of the original refuge without the wilderness designation.

The legislation would also preserve minimum hunting and traditional uses.

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"The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure that must be preserved for future generations to experience and enjoy,” Cantwell said in a statement.

"I'm proud to join Senator Kirk on this bipartisan bill to protect one of the last pristine public lands in America. We need to advance forward-looking solutions for America’s energy future, while preserving this treasured public land and the unique ecosystem that depends on it."

Conservation groups applauded both senators.

"Senators Kirk and Cantwell have long been the Arctic Refuge’s defensive champions, protecting it from threats of oil and gas drilling in both chambers of Congress for many years," Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement.

"With today’s introduction of this Wilderness bill, they now assume the role of Arctic Refuge’s offensive champions as well," Shogan said.